Holocaust survivors flee to Germany

Hannah Brooks, Features editor

Holocaust survivors in Kyiv, Ukraine have found themselves taking desperate measures during Vladimir Putin’s invasion of their hometown last month. Survivors have recently found sanctuary in Germany, one of the only options that is safe for them at this time. 

There had been approximately 10,000 Holocaust survivors living in Ukraine, and a portion of those survivors are now finding refuge in Germany, the country that, at one time, organized the murders of six million Jewish people across Europe. 

Tatyana Zhuravliova, an 83-year-old holocaust survivor was one who sought out shelter in Germany.  

Zhuravliova shared her story with the Associated Press, noting that she felt “the same panic she suffered as a little girl when the Nazis were flying air attacks on her hometown of Odesa.”  

“My whole body was shaking, and those fears crept up again through my entire body – fears which I didn’t even know were still hidden inside me,” Zhuravliova said in an interview with the Associated Press.  

“Now I’m too old to run to the bunker. So I just stayed inside my apartment and prayed that the bombs would not kill me.” 

As the attacks began to increase in severity, including the demolition of multiple blocks of apartments, Zhuravliova realized that she had no choice but to evacuate and accepted help from a Jewish organization, New York based Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (also known as The Claims Conference), which helped her to get out of Ukraine safely.  

Per the organization’s website, they began in 1951 and have successfully helped survivors receive 90 billion dollars in compensation and restitution.  

To this day, the organization continues to “negotiate for and disburse funds to individuals and organizations and seeks the return of Jewish property stolen during the Holocaust.” 

The organization has organized the evacuation of multiple groups of Holocaust survivors, and Zhuravliova was part of the first group to escape. The Claims Conference is currently working with another committee, The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) to safely evacuate as many Holocaust survivors from Ukraine as possible.  

Around 500 Holocaust survivors in Ukraine are especially in need of assistance due to their health, and it was noted that their evacuation is currently a top priority. 

The evacuations have been a dangerous process due to artillery fire and shelling. The entire process also includes finding medical staff and ambulances in multiple war zones, crossing international borders, and also attempting to convince survivors, many of whom are unable to leave their homes without extra support due to their health, to flee the country and leave their homes during this dangerous and uncertain time. 

“No one can imagine the nightmare the survivors have lived through during the Holocaust,” said Ruediger Mahlo, an employee for the Claims Conference in Germany, in an interview with the Associated Press.  

“Now they need to evacuate again – their security, all things familiar are again being stripped from them and they are forced to live with uncertainty and fear.” 

Currently, the evacuated groups are living in Jewish or interfaith nursing homes all across Germany. The 3,500 Ukrainian Jews have been offered an expedited path to permanent immigration, which is part of Germany’s continuing efforts to compensate Jews since the Holocaust.  

Though the survivors had to endure long and frightening travels to get to safety in Germany, several of the survivors had remarked that they are grateful to be in Germany at this time. 

“To me, it looks like the country has learned from the past and is trying to do something good for us now,” Zhuravliova said to the Associated Press.